Verdi: Requiem

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: CSO Resound
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: Barbara Frittoli (soprano), Olga Borodina (mezzo-soprano), Mario Zeffiri (tenor), Ildar Abdrazakov (bass); Chicago SO & Chorus/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: CSOR 901 1008

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In September Riccardo Muti took up the post of music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and this recording – made over three performances in January 2010 – is their first together.

Verdi’s masterpiece is a special work for the Italian maestro – a ‘fight between men, women and God’, as he describes it in a booklet interview – and much remains of the potency of his classic 1979 Philharmonia recording (now available on EMI Gemini).

The Dies Irae, for instance, retains all his accustomed bite and fury. In places, though, his use of rubato here borders on the excessive.

The large and sonorous Chicago chorus is a forceful presence, occasionally a bit lumbering but highly articulate with the text, despite occasional imprecision. The perilous Sanctus notably goes well. 

The soloists form a generally strong team. Barbara Frittoli’s substantial soprano charts the emotions of the music along with the notes, though there’s a hint of wobble to the voice.

Olga Borodina’s glamorous mezzo-soprano is employed with consistent insight and depth. Less even is Mario Zeffiri’s tenor, sometimes sweet, sometimes wiry, and not always in tune. Rock solid on the bass line is the authoritative Ildar Abdrazakov.

Capturing the scale and range of this sonic epic is always difficult. Here the balance is not always satisfactory – the tenor sometimes stands forward of the other soloists – and the overall picture is constricted and lacking in clarity.

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With many alternatives to choose from, including Antonio Pappano’s wonderful Roman version (winner of this year’s BBC Music Magazine Choral Award), and Muti’s own Philharmonia recording, this is unlikely to become a top choice. George Hall